Thursday, 2 April 2015

The regional quagmire traps Hezbollah

"The fall of Idlib last week raised worrying questions for Hezbollah. The city was held principally by the Syrian army and pro-Assad militias, and their lamentable performance appeared to show that the military effectiveness of the Syrian regime is near its end. That means that the burden of fighting will continue to be shifted onto the shoulders of Iran and Hezbollah, as well as Shiite militias from Iraq and even Afghanistan.
Now Hezbollah must consider what to do in Qalamoun, where it has been planning an attack for months. Everything suggests the party will go ahead with an operation, for several reasons: to reverse the sense of collapse prevailing in pro-Assad ranks; to show that the neutralization of the border region with Lebanon can succeed, even if this failed in the north and south; and to inflict a defeat on the Nusra Front, when the group’s central role in the takeover of Idlib has given it a great lift among Syrians opposed to the regime. Hezbollah does not want Nusra to gain strength at the expense of ISIS, whom many Syrians accuse of undermining their revolution.
However, Hezbollah should be very careful. Qalamoun is a thankless place, and any military reversal there for the party, in light of those in recent weeks, would be devastating for Iran and the Assad regime. Hezbollah has to be sure that it can win in Qalamoun.
The Syrian army and militias will be essential to this. Yet after their mediocre presentation in Idlib, Hezbollah must have doubts about them, particularly if corruption on the Syrian side is exploited by the rebels to allow reinforcements."

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